Hospital-Linked Infections Down, CDC Says

Twenty-one states had significant decreases in central line-associated bloodstream infections between 2009 and 2010, according to the report.

A new state-by-state breakdown of health care-associated infections shows reductions in infection rates across the country. The report also pinpoints that some medical procedures will require stronger infection prevention efforts to maximize patient safety.

The report includes a summary measure called a standardized infection ratio, which allows tracking of prevention efforts over time. The data in the report were submitted by hospitals to CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network, the agency’s infection tracking system used by more than 7,800 health care facilities nationwide as a core tool for preventing health care-associated infections. This is the first time that CDC is releasing a standardized infection ratio for central line-associated bloodstream infections for each of the 50 states. As seen in the report, 21 states had significant decreases in central line-associated bloodstream infections between 2009 and 2010, which has contributed to the progress seen on a national level.

“We need a comprehensive approach for tackling infections in the nation’s health care facilities, as patients can seek care from a variety of locations and move between health care facilities,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network is a critical tool for states to do prevention work. Once a state knows where problems lie, it can better assist facilities in correcting the issue and protecting patients.”

States are in different places in their prevention efforts across health care. Preventing health care-associated infections requires a systematic, step-wise approach in all health care facilities which includes:

  • Tracking infections: States start by collecting data to better target prevention efforts. Most begin by tracking infections in intensive care units (ICUs), and then expand their efforts into non-critical care units (wards) and neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).
  • Checking the data: Once states have data available, they double check it to ensure all infections are properly captured, a process known as validation.
  • Implementing proven prevention techniques: Once states have strong data in place, they can identify areas that need improvement, implement a prevention program, and then measure progress. Most states start by focusing their prevention efforts on patients with central lines receiving care in hospital intensive care units. A central line is a tube that is placed in a large vein of a patient's neck or chest to give important medical treatment. When not put in correctly or kept clean, central lines can become a freeway for germs to enter the body and cause serious bloodstream infections. After showing prevention success in this area, many states expand their prevention efforts to other settings (such as wards and NICUs) and to cover additional types of infections.
  • The report also includes a national snapshot of the infection risk linked to ten common surgical procedures. Although nationally there was a decrease in surgical site infections in 2010, only one procedure showed a substantial decrease in infections between 2009 and 2010, which impacted the observed decrease nationally. This procedure, coronary artery bypass grafting, improves blood flow to the heart in people who have severe coronary heart disease.
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